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JOSEPH MILLAR'S first collection, Overtime was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012.

Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Johns Hopkins University before spending 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His workstark, clean, unsparingrecords the narrative of a life fully lived among fathers, sons, brothers, daughters, weddings and divorce, men and women.

He has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a 2008 Pushcart Prize and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, APR, and Ploughshares.  Millar teaches in Pacific University's low-residency MFA.

Sample Poems


We started back from the coast
in the darkness
watching out for black ice
with evergreen branches on either side,
the sea wind pushing us
up from the beach
and five or six people coughing,
everyone trying to rest . . .

on a morning like this
the sky draws close,
you can see the faint stars,
a strand of blue fog half covering
the fulsome, promiscuous moon.
Everyone knows
she'll go home with anybody,
even you in your secondhand shirt
with aspirin in the front pocket,

your tongue asleep
in your mouth like a reef fish
tasting of smoke and wine,
its songs left behind on the ribbed sand
abandoned there by the ebb:
song of watching the crab boats at night,
song of watering the house plants.

She'll follow you home
to your skeletal orchard, your barn
with its vagrant wisps of hay,
though she surely won't let you fall asleep,
hours from sunrise over the driveway
shining into your kitchen.

They say she went home
with Stanley Kubrick in 1968,
posed naked under his arc lights,
lay on her back while the astronauts
gathered their fragments of feldspar,
planted their spindly flags.

She shines on the bus driver's
blond ponytail,
she's making big eyes at him,
his hands on the wheel
with their black leather cuffs,
shines on the sheet metal
covering the engine
and the road's thin shoulder
speckled with rock salt
hunched against the dawn.


So the coffee would stay hot all morning
Edna, the large-boned Dutch waitress,
her face and throat flushed from the heat
would first fill my thermos with boiling water
in the Circle Diner on Kutztown Road,
this July morning steamy and loud
with a highway crew at the counter,
two grizzled mailmen in the side booth
and us from the nearby construction site,
a job I loved for its noise and fresh air,
screwing big lag bolts into the sills
of Caloric Stove's new factory warehouse,
the whirr of the countersink drilling the wood,
clean white hemlock or spruce

and when one of the mailmen heads for the door
Edna calls out to him Hey Jack
how you think Frank's feeling this morning?

Smoke from the grill and the cook's cigar
clouding the wide glass window:
Frank, 20 years her senior,
stepping from Sam Giancana's limo
or else whispering One For My Baby
into the spotlight: his death
in his voice with its flawless control,
his slanted fedora and raincoat,
his glittering life we could only imagine

though most of us are laughing by now
wolfing our hot cakes and eggs
when the old man yells back, Tired as hell!
pulling his hat down low at the door,
happy enough to be going to work
on a Friday under the dawnwashed sky
of Johnson's Great Society,
with the Lehigh Valley opening its thighs
and the weekend gorged with promise.